Thanks again to Ron Long for sharing one of his photographs with us through Botany Photo of the Day. Ron went to the Siskiyou Mountains area of Oregon a couple weeks after we had returned from the area. I gave him directions to some of the areas we investigated that had an incredible diversity of plants, and he was not disappointed (and, in fact, found many different plants that had not yet bloomed when we traveled there). As an example, the Cypripedium californicum was just starting to bloom when Ron visited the area, and we hadn’t identified any plants from leaves alone.
California lady’s slipper, like so very many plants in the Siskiyous area, is native only to northern California and southwest Oregon. It was first discovered in California, hence the dibs on the name. Named in 1868 by Asa Gray, it has the most restricted distribution of any Cypripedium species in North America. The genus Cypripedium is restricted to arctic and temperate climates of the northern hemisphere.
Often growing in association with Darlingtonia californica, California lady’s slipper is found along shady mountain streams and springs.
Much of today’s information is gleaned from Carlyle Luer’s The Native Orchids of the United States and Canada excluding Florida. I’m compelled to quote this passage from the book (page 62): “…The surprisingly long, leafy stems curved gracefully out from the banks…Each stem bore in its upper half and orderly row of little slippers, each accompanied by a leaf. What they lacked in individual beauty was amply compensated by numbers. The long rows of flowers seemed to dangle like lanterns in the checkered sunlight, each facing in precisely the same direction away from the embankment…”